Monday, November 16, 2009

Festival of Trees - Bobcaygeon

I attended The Festival of Trees this past weekend held at the Kawartha Settlers Village in Bobcaygeon Ontario. It was a super opportunity to shoot Christmas decorations and lights and support the local community.

They did a super job of decorating the old buildings inside and out. Here are some photos I took there. These are all single exposures, I will describe my settings used under each photo. I am not a big fan of tripods but I had to use my tripod for all these shots because of the extremely long exposure times. All photos are shot with my Nikon D3 and the Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 lens on Manual exposure mode.

ISO 1600 - 6 seconds - F/22

ISO 1600 - 4 seconds - F/22

These next shots are indoors shot on very long exposures to get ghosting effects caused by the people walking by and to eliminate the clutter of all the people walking in front of me. Someone would have to stand still for part of the exposure to appear at all, or as a ghost like figure. For example, in this next shot, there are two people in red jackets that are fairly solid. They were filling out ballots so they didn't move much but the two larger ghost like figures in the foreground of my image were only there for part of the exposure. There were lots of other people walking through the  frame but they didn't register at all because they weren't standing still long enough.

You will notice that I had to drop my ISO to allow for the longer exposure times.

ISO 200 - 15 seconds - F/20

ISO 100 - 30 seconds - F/22

ISO 100 - 30 seconds - F/18

My blog post wouldn't be complete without some slow shutter speed artsy photos.

ISO 200 - 1/2 second - F/5.6

ISO 500 - 1/8 second - F/5.6

ISO 320 - 1/3 second - F/9

ISO 500 - 1/8 second - F/5.6

We have our Manual Exposure and Artistic Interpretations classes starting soon. Join us to gain control of your camera and learn these cool techniques.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Canon 500D Close-up Lens

While visiting Laura in Virginia recently, she had me try out her Canon close-up lens. This "lens" just screws on to the end of your lens like a filter, not sure why they call it a lens? Anyway, what a cool gadget! I used it on my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens and it acts almost like a macro lens. It is manufactured by Canon but seeing as it screws on to the end of a lens, there is no lens mount to worry about so us Nikon shooters can use it too.

I loved the fact that I could carry the lens (filter) in my pocket and put it on and take it off easily. Much easier than carrying around a Macro lens and changing lenses all the time.

I loved it so much that I immediately ordered one up for myself from B&H Photo Video.

Canon 77mm 500D Close-up Lens

Canon Close-up lenses are for quick and easy close-up photography. The close-up lens is screwed on to the front of a lens like a filter. Close-up lenses 250D and 500D have two achromatic elements to correct chromatic aberrations. They do not degrade the high optical performance of EF lenses. Close-up lens 500 has only one element, making it more affordable.

Shooting with a close-up lens makes you view the world around you in a much different way. You start to notice details and textures that would normally be overlooked because they are normally so small and insignificant. But the beauty of Mother Nature should not be over looked, it is incredible!

Milkweed seeds

Nikon D3 - 70-200mm f/2.8 lens - ISO 800 - 1/400 second - F/22
Manual exposure mode

Sycamore Leaf

Nikon D3 - 70-200mm f/2.8 lens -  ISO 800 - 1/320 second - F/8
Manual exposure mode

Poison Ivy vine

Nikon D3 - 70-200mm f/2.8 lens - ISO 1600 - 1/400 second - F/5
Manual exposure mode

Frozen Hosta leaves

Nikon D3 - 70-200mm f/2.8 lens - ISO 800 - 1/320 second - F/8
Manual exposure mode

Conch shell

Nikon D3 - 70-200mm f/2.8 lens - ISO 1000 - 1/500 second - F/22
Manual exposure mode


Nikon D3 - 70-200mm f/2.8 lens - ISO 1600 - 1/400 second - F/8
Manual exposure mode

A piece of rock from my husband's rock garden

Nikon D3 - 70-200m f/2.8 lens - ISO 1600 - 1/400 second - F/18
Manual exposure mode

Learn To Take Photos!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Talking to Clementine - working an idea

Yesterday I was out working on some ideas and shooting for a photo challenge. The challenge is shooting horses at 50mm which is just a hideous focal length for horses. I thought I would share a little of my process for two reasons. First of all, photography is work. Nobody makes a masterpiece in 15 minutes on the first try. And, second of all, is the fun I have communicating with horses. It never ceases to delight me.

The creative process has four stages: preparation, incubation, insight and verification. The way I work is to come up with some ideas by looking at existing work, reading and frequently Googling (preparation). Next I start brainstorming, I think of all the ways I can imagine to shoot horses at 50mm so I don't just go out there without a thought in my head (incubation).

Next, I go out there and try some stuff. I see how the light looks in the pasture, look for cool scenes or interesting colors. I see how the horses are acting. I am hoping for insight!
Insight is the subjective experience of having the idea or “aha” moment when you are seized by something that you think will work and be cool.

After the shoot I come back to my computer and look at my shots and evaluate. This is the verification of the completed idea. Does it suck? Is it fantastic? How can I improve on the insight?

Most of the time, we shoot more than once. Work it, baby!

Okay, so I went out to the horse pasture with my 50mm ideas. Here is a story of one shot that I like pretty well. And, here comes the horse communication part of the story.

This is Clementine. She is a horse friend of mine. I love shooting her because she is so beautiful and has a really fun draft horse attitude. She is totally calm yet still intelligent and opinionated. She was just standing out in her field. This is 50mm. What a hideous and crappy snapshot, right?

I was wandering around and there is a big sycamore along the fence line that looked like it had some pretty light. So, I went over and tried a test shot at 50mm to see if it might be promising. I thought it could be cool if Clem would stand under the tree for me.

Lots of times I find that simply asking the horse by speaking out loud works. So I said "Clem, it would be great if you would come stand right here under this tree." I am sure you think this is insanity but somehow verbalizing your intention helps communicate it and crystallize it. Clem came wandering over and I guided her under the lowest hanging limbs. Here is the first shot. Looks like she is saying "Is this where you want me?"

The starburst was one of my ideas for 50mm. Because the focal length is so short, I could get away with a small aperture of f/16 which makes the starburst from a ray of sunlight.

And, here was the original image I had in mind when I first saw the tree.

Am I done? No. I don't like the fly mask. I will go back and work the scene again and see what I can do with it. But, I think the insight is good. Its an idea worth working on.

Learn To Take Photos

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What's in Your Camera Bag?

Laura and I decided it would be fun to find out what you all have in your camera bags. We'll begin by listing our stuff.

Christina Handley's camera bag:

Nikon D3
Nikon D2X
Nikon D200 transformed into an infrared camera.
AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED VR lenses (x2)
AF-S Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D lens
AF-S DX Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G IF ED lens
AF-DX Nikkor fisheye10.5mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens
AF Nikkor 60mm f/2.8D macro lens
AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D lens
AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E II
Nikkor MC-30 cable release
SB-800 Speedlight
Lots of Sandisk 8 gig and 4 gig Extreme III compact flash cards
Pocket Wizards
Manfroto monopod, model # 334B
Manfroto tripod, model # 190QCB
Manfroto tripod head, model # 322RC2

On Christina's wish list:

Nikon D700
Nikon AF-S 200-400mm f/4G IF-ED VR lens

Laura Cotterman's camera bag:

Nikon D3
Canon 5D
Canon G10
Canon Camcorder Vixia HF100
Sony Camcorder HVR-V1U

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM
Canon Telephoto EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro
Canon 1.4 Teleconverter
Canon 77mm 500D Close-up Lens
Canon 580EX Flash
Canon cable release

Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED VR lens
Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S DX VR Lens
Nikon Super Wide Angle AF 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED-IF AF-S DX
Wide Angle AF Nikkor 24mm f/2.8D
Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 XR Di LD
AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E II
Nikkor MC-30 cable release
Nikon SB-800 Speedlight
Lensbaby Composer with macro and super wide angle
Kenko extension tubes

Lots of Sandisk 8gig Extreme III compact flash cards and some Sandisk 4 gig cards as well
Pocket Wizards
Manfrotto monopod, model #562B for video
Manfrotto tripod, model # 3021BPRO with a 501 HDV fluid head for video
Manfrotto 055MF4 with Kirk ball head
Another Manfrotto monopod

Quantum Turbo 2x2 Battery
Quantum Qflash

On Laura's wish list:

Nikon D700
Nikon AF-S 200-400mm f/4G IF-ED VR lens
AF-S Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D lens
Canon 7D

So .... what's in your camera bag?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Artsy Fartsy Birch Trees

I went out last night to take a few new photos for our Artistic Interpretations class starting today and I got stuck on these birch trees. I'm not sure why they fascinated me as much as they did but I couldn't seem to concentrate much on anything else.

I tried a new technique on them which I am quite happy with. They look like cyclones! This is completely done in camera, not Photoshop.

Nikon D3 - 17-35 f/2.8 lens - ISO 100 - 1/5 second - f/5.6
Manual Exposure mode

Nikon D3 - 17-35 f/2.8 lens - ISO 200 - 1/3 second - f/5.6
Manual Exposure mode

Nikon D3 - 17-35 f/2.8 lens - ISO 100 - 1/2.5 second - f/5.6
Manual Exposure mode

Nikon D3 - 17-35 f/2.8 lens - ISO 100 - 1/4 second - f/5.6
Manual Exposure mode

Nikon D3 - 17-35 f/2.8 lens - ISO 100 - 1/5 second - f/5.6
Manual Exposure mode

Nikon D3 - 17-35 f/2.8 lens - ISO 100 - 1/2 second - f/5.6
Manual Exposure mode

Let me know which one you like the best. I am leaning towards the first one.

Learn To Take Photos

Artistic Plowing Photos

My husband has been working up more land this fall and I love to hang around and take photos. I take them for a couple of different reasons, one is to document the event and the second reason is take them for myself. My husband likes, no loves to look at my photos of our farm and our animals and I love taking the photos. I've been taking photos of this for years so I usually try to do something different or creative each time.

I always start with the expected shots, the ones that show the scene and the job being done, these are very important for the documentation part of it. Of course, these are the ones my husband appreciates the most.

Then I take some detail shots, I love using leading lines in my work and what could be better than a freshly plowed field for leading lines.

Then I get really creative and go nuts! lol. The last bunch were taken with slow shutter speeds to give a sense of motion. I think this one might be my favorite.

Nikon D3 - 70-200mm lens - ISO 100 - 1/5 second - f/22

For this panning photo, I shot on Continuous Servo mode and continuous high speed shutter release. I put my focus point on the tractor part and shot like crazy when he went by. I began shooting when the tractor was about 45 degrees to my left and ended when the tractor was about 45 degrees to my right or if the buffer filled sooner than that. I shoot and shoot and shoot. Some photos are blurry and some turn out like this. It's all worth it when you get a good one.

Nikon D3 - 70-200mm lens - ISO 100 - 1/13 second - f/10

I zoomed my lens while taking the last two shots to achieve that funky look.

Nikon D3 - 70-200mm lens - ISO 100 - 1/13 second - f/18

Nikon D3 - 70-200mm lens - ISO 100 - 1/13 second - f/14

Learn To Take Photos

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fun With Wide Angle!

I recently purchased the Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 wide angle lens.
Nikon Website

  • Fast, ultra-wideangle zoom lens with Silent Wave Motor
  • Features two types of aspherical lens (two molded-glass and one hybrid) and two ED glass elements
  • 0.28m closest focusing throughout zoom range
  • M/A mode for quick switching between autofocus and manual focus operation
  • Nine-blade rounded diaphragm

This is a sweet lens, it is fast and sharp! It is an FX lens, designed for a full frame sensor. It is super for shooting landscapes and helping you step out of your comfort zone and break the rules a wee bit when shooting subjects that would normally require a long focal length such as when photographing horses or other animals.

Wide angle lenses distort things by making objects nearest to the camera look bigger and objects farther from the camera look smaller.

But, when you can put all the "rules" aside and just focus on having fun and being creative ... well the possibilities are endless. All of these photos were shot at 17mm.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Horse Eyeball Photos

Everyone likes to take photos of horse eyeballs and we are no exception. They are fun, challenging and rewarding!

Here are just a few important things to know about taking effective horse eyeball photos.
  • Details matter - make sure the eyeball is clean, this means no goop or tears. No burs in the forelock or mane. Watch out for misplaced hairs. No dust or mud on horse.
  • No halters or bridles - keep the photo clean and simple.
  • Shoot in good light - Take photos in early morning or late afternoon when the light is low and soft
  • Focus needs to be sharp and in the right place, the eyeball has to be sharp.
  • No dead center compositions, these are usually static and boring.
  • Watch your backgrounds, shooting at an angle that includes their mane and/or neck always works great.
  • Shoot at eye level, if you are shooting a pony, get down on your knees if you have to.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Nikon's Buffer Expansion

One of the most annoying things about digital cameras is the buffer. If you shoot in raw and shoot fast moving subjects or quickly changing scenes then you are probably very familiar with that moment when your shutter simply won't fire. You wonder what the problem is and stare in disbelief at your camera as it slowly and methodically writes to the card. In the meantime, you have missed at least 1000 great shots. This can be incredibly frustrating!

The scene plays out over and over for us with the horses. Say you are at the race track. The action is fairly predictable and you know you'll be shooting as the horses come thundering down the track towards you filling your frame. You get all excited, do your thing and take a bunch of photos. The next thing you know one of the horses has lost its rider but your buffer is full, you are done, the loose horse is running wild and your camera is writing to the card. After awhile you'll get to fire one more frame.

Loose horse on the racetrack

Or, say you are out in the pasture and the horses get stirred up and start trotting around. You get all excited and take a bunch of photos. The next thing you know their tails are up over their backs and they are running like mad. You click off three shots and your buffer is full, you are done, the horses are running and your camera is writing to the card, again. You are ready to rip your hair out, again. But, it doesn't have to be that way.

Horse galloping in pasture

A good buffer is one of the best reasons I know to buy a pro camera body. We shoot lots of horses and sports action and the buffer is a crucial limitation on shooting.

Here are the number of shots that can be stored in the buffer during continuous shooting for some of the popular Nikon bodies.

D5000 or D90 - 7 raw
D300, D700 and D3 - 17 raw

So, you can see you get more than twice the buffer capacity with one of the pro bodies. That is a great start! But, you also get an increase in the frames per second which can plug the buffer full in a couple seconds or less.

There is an answer! Its the "buffer upgrade" offered by Nikon Service. For $500 they will add memory to your buffer and increase the capacity of your D3 to 38 uncompressed raw files.

This will change your life! And, the way you shoot. You won't be taking the camera from your eye. You can keep right on shooting and shooting.

Go to D3 Digital-SLR Camera Buffer Memory Expansion Service to find out how to get the service done. Yes, its expensive but not really compared to your investment in equipment and your time and effort.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Having a great time with art photography

We recently completed the first session of our Artistic Interpretations course and we had a great time. The students were a lively and creative group. The exchange of ideas and sharing of vision was truly inspiring. Christina and I found ourselves out most every day shooting new work and trying out ideas for composite images.

This is one of the best things about teaching for us. As we work to put our knowledge into words and ideas we can share with others they become fully formed and crystallized. There are lots of ah ha! moments and new inspirations.

The whole idea of Artistic Interpretations is to experiment with abstraction and impressionism. It is a great way to rekindle your creativity and find some new ideas that light your fire. We played around with slow shutter speeds and all kinds of multiple exposures and composite images.

The course served as a springboard for us and we have more ideas for art photography courses. The creative shooting and Photoshop ideas are limitless. We are still enjoying the abstract and are working on new course materials for fall. Can't wait for those colorful autumn leaves this year!

In the spirit of creativity we have a student photo challenge for Enhanced Images going on in August. The upload deadline is August 16. Let's see your stuff!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Looking for a new perspective from a bird's eye view

This week's Photo Challenge theme is "View from Above". Here are a few tips and thoughts for taking photos with a "View from Above"

Go grab your stepladder out of the garage and try a fresh perspective on your usual subjects. Try the kids in the sandbox or maybe the dog chewing a bone in the grass. There are lots of other ways to get a view from above like shooting from a balcony into the street below or out the hayloft door into the barnyard.

Be sure to compose your images carefully. This is your chance to get a perfectly clean, clutter free background like an uninterrupted expanse of green grass or the sparkling water in the swimming pool.

Try to make the overhead perspective meaningful and add interest to your photo. Think about what is unique about it.

You can shoot wide angle or telephoto for these type of shots. Anything goes! It depends how high you are and what your subject is. Here is a fisheye shot of Ohio's Amish country taken from a hot air balloon.

An aperture of f/8 will work well for most photos because everything will be on one focal plane and everything will be in focus.

A note for new students ... these weekly challenges are free and open to all our students at They are a great way to get motivated, share photos and have fun with some friendly competition. Please jump right in. A good way to start is rating the current challenge and taking a look at some past winners. Don't be shy.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Are you seeing a pattern here?

This week's Photo Challenge theme is "Pattern" so we have put together a few tips for shooting photos of patterns.

Visual patterns are things that repeat like stripes, zigzags, and polka-dots. Patterns can be found in nature and man-made objects. For example, zebras and Appaloosa horses have patterned coats. Effective photos of pattern are filled edge to edge with pattern.

You will start seeing patterns everywhere once you start looking for them. Some examples are water drops on your windshield, veins on a leaf, tree bark, ripples on water, a patchwork quilt, wood grain, lines in the sand.

To be effective, your pattern photo should completely fill the frame, edge to edge. If you are going to photograph the pattern on a zebra zoom in until the stripes completely fill the frame.

Pattern photos are usually best when the entire pattern is in focus. Using an aperture like f/8 or f/11 will give you good depth of field and sharpness for a pattern that is all on one plane. Try get a camera angle that puts you parallel to the pattern rather than shooting across it. Patterns frequently become abstracted and that is just great.

Our photo challenges are free and open to all students at

Click here to view recent winners and login to enter your photos in the challenges.